I love Gretchen Rubin and her analytical and joyful approach to life. So I am proud to say I was a featured interview on her blog! It was (and still is!) a thrill.
I had a terrific conversation about my book "Why Can't We Just Play? What I Did When I Realized My Kids Were Way Too Busy" with Dr. Mike of PediaCast. Here we discuss the benefits, logistics and impact of pulling back and unplugging from an overly-scheduled family life. Our chat is a lot of fun ... and I talk about the surprising ways that summer changed me.
Last year I noticed something new in the halls of our elementary school. Outside the music room was a huge mural - clearly made by children – that asked fellow students, “Stressed Out?” The poster offered gentle advice on how to deal: “Breathe”, “All We Have is Here and Now”, Think Calm Thoughts, This Too Will Pass, “Read a Good Book”.
The phrases were carefully lettered in crayon with child-like printing, which to me made it all the more surprising and sad. Sixth-graders, experienced in being over-stressed, were giving advice to second graders to help them adjust to being over-stressed.
When we think of stress for grade-school children, we typically think of some anxiety surrounding a teacher, or a particular subject they dislike, or perhaps they’re worried about a kid that bullied them in the past. But stress in the younger grades is now much more complicated than that. If you are a parent, you know about the homework, the after-school activities, the smartphones, the competitive athletics, the lack of down time. In terms of schedules and pressure – nine is the new 15. But did you realize that our children are so stressed out they need to tell each other “Breathe” because “This Too Will Pass”?
What I See
In my duties as an instructional aide I see children in class, at lunch and at recess. I see how they learn, how they play, and I overhear their conversations. Last year I heard a 6th grade girl moan to her friend on a Friday afternoon “I don’t know when I’m going to do my homework. I have a game tonight, a birthday party for my cousin tomorrow and another game on Sunday. I’m so stressed out.”
This 11 year old kid had every minute of her weekend planned, and none of it included free play – none of it included any freedom. Every minute was spoken for. No wonder she was stressed. She felt she had no breathing room.
Topping it all off is that even when the kids are “free” they are on their phones, which puts them under pressure to be on Snap or Instagram or the latest social media fad. It’s yet another way they need to conform and measure up.
I don’t know when adults became confused about what childhood is supposed to look like. Most of us had a childhood that included plenty of play –why do we think it needs to be different for our kids? Perhaps at some point prevailing wisdom dictated that we could “improve” our kids if we gave them lots of scheduled activities and lessons instead of just allowing them to play. But the past 10 years have proven that flat wrong. Children are more overweight, more anxious and less confident than ever.
What can parents do?
Ask your child if they feel they have enough time to play. Especially if they seem stressed. Make sure they seem to be answering honestly, not just giving you the answer they think you want to hear. They may have subliminally gotten a message from our culture that they are too old to play and feel embarrassed about asking for it.
Trust me – nine, ten, or eleven years old is not too old to goof around on a playground. I see them do it every day at recess. They are not allowed to have their phones, and there is minimal adult supervision, so they are free to play as they like. They play made up games, they play tag, they pretend to be super heroes. They play old-style games like Four Square and Red Rover. They play boys-chase-girls. They do cartwheels. They dig in the sand for “treasures” and make piles of old bottlecaps and other trash and then guard their booty. They scream and show off. They act like kids. It’s fantastic.
Play is the way kids reduce their stress. We can’t change their world. But we can help them to cope with stress by making sure play is a part of it. Protecting their play time is the first step in teaching them how to care for themselves. They get one childhood. It should be fun.
A Pediatric Podcast for Parents
Join Dr. Mike in the PediaCast Studio for the latest news parents can use, answers to listener questions, and interviews with pediatric and parenting experts. PediaCast has been an evidence-based award-winning educational podcast since 2006.
It's been about two weeks since the "Listen to Your Mother" show, North Jersey. We did two sold out shows on Saturday, May 7, and it was a fantastic way to celebrate Mother's Day.
Here we are signing our posters in between shows.
"Listen to Your Mother" is an event where people stand up and tell a story about motherhood - their own or someone else's. You don't have to be a writer or performer to do this, but some of us are.
Mostly, it's just ordinary people who choose to share a story.
Well, they seem ordinary. Until you hear their stories.
Listen to Your Mother is a national event that is staged every year in over 40 cities. Check it out next year in your area. In the meantime, you will see all of our stories on YouTube in just a few months.
The "Listen To Your Mother" show is this weekend! We are doing two shows at _SOPAC ...
Of course I need something new to wear.
So I tried on a few dresses ...
And then a few more.
I've narrowed it down ...
to a few selections ...
But I still have time to decide.
Did I mention the show is filmed for You Tube?
The show is filled with funny, surprising and amazing stories. I just want my dress to measure up to the level of inspiring content.
I may be asking too much of a dress. More news later from the "Listen To Your Mother" countdown.
"Why Can't We Just Play?" officially hits bookstores on April 5. (However, many people who "pre-ordered" have already received their books.)
I will be giving book talk/signing on Tuesday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m. Save the date!
You can buy books at that time, or you can bring books that you already purchased and have me sign them, or you can just come and join in the fun without buying a book at all.
I love the library! (685 Elm Avenue, River Edge)
My books will be available there, too, for checking out.
I hope to have many other events around Bergen County and beyond in the coming months. But I am thrilled that the River Edge Library will be my first.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
I needed an appropriate picture of myself for publicity for my book “Why Can’t We Just Play?” In the recent past, whenever I’ve needed a picture for any project I’m doing, I usually dug one up from around the house.
Sometimes it’s something that my husband had snapped spur of the moment ...
Sometimes it had Baxter in it ...
Or it could be a picture that doesn't feature me at all!
But now, with my book coming out (have I mentioned I have a book coming out?) it was time to get professional about it.
I called my friend, photographer Loreen Lesso, because
a) I knew she would take terrific pictures,
b) I knew I would feel comfortable posing for her, and
c) she wanted to let Baxter be in some of them!
We were hoping for a cloudy day, because we wanted to shoot outdoors.
But it turned out to be sunny, so we shot mostly indoors. She was so relaxed and professional, and we had a lot of fun. Plus, she has a great tip for a way to diminish wrinkles in photographs.
Put an adorable dog in the picture! No one will care about your wrinkles!
Thank you Loreen! xoxo